Tag Archives: garage attic

2014/08/05 (T) Primary Elections

The rain started early today with a pre-dawn thunderstorm and continued off and on the rest of the day and evening.  The area beyond the basement walkout deck is a muddy mess, but Village Landscape Development has not finished grading it.  They need it to be dry, so it may be awhile before they can finish it.

Our first construction task today was to pull electrical cable up into the garage attic for three more circuits.  I wanted to get this done early in the day while it was cool and Linda’s knee was feeling better.  I had been mulling this work over last night and realized that I had probably made an incorrect assumption about the location of the 240V/20A service for the new library air-conditioner, so I put a call in to Darryll right after breakfast.  We got a call from Karen at Bratcher Electric around 9 AM to  see if it would be OK for Mike to stop by around 11 AM to look at some electrical work we need done.  He wanted to see the job in person in order to prepare a quote.

The new cable for the outlets on the west and northwest wall was already in the garage attic but I had to crawl into the low northeast corner to reach it and get it routed in the right direction.  I then had to crawl into the same corner from a different direction to pull it to the junction box I installed last week.  I secured it with cable staples and connected it to the old cable.

Next we pulled a 14-2+g NM cable from the sub-panel to the approximate location where the garage furnace will hang from the ceiling to provide a dedicated 120/15A circuit but did not install an outlet box pending a final location from Darryll.  We then pulled another 14-2+g NM cable from the sub-panel to the north end of the new west utility closet wall.  This cable will provide a dedicated 120V/15A circuit for the new library furnace.  Again, I did not install an outlet box pending a final location from Darryll.

Darryll called back and confirmed that the new 240V/20A dedicated circuit for the new library air-conditioner had to be routed to the location of the condenser/compressor on the outside of the west wall of the garage and there had to be a weatherproof disconnect within three feet of the unit.  That meant another trip to Lowe’s, but not until much later in the day.

Mike Bratcher showed up on time and I walked him through the project.  I want to re-wire the garage sub-panel as a 100A main panel by running service entrance cable from the transfer switch in the southwest corner of the garage to the sub-panel in the northeast corner of the garage.  We may also want to run power to the bus barn if/when it gets built.  Mike suggested that they go ahead and “stub out” the barn service at the same time with an appropriate disconnect.  The plan is to have them do this work at the same time they convert the Kohler whole house generator to natural gas and do the annual maintenance.  Mike also confirmed that they can take care of the natural gas connection to the generator as long as the pipe is located near the back of the unit, has a shutoff valve, and is capped.

By the time Mike left it was after noon so we had lunch.  While we ate we ordered a dual outlet phone/ADSL filter wall plate and a few other things on our Amazon Prime account and researched candidates and proposals for the primary election.  We then went to our polling station, located about two miles from our house, and voted.

This was the first election we participated in since moving to Livingston County.  As Democrats (and liberal ones at that) in this part of Livingston County voting in the primary is an exercise.  The real contest is on the Republican ticket; whoever wins the Republican primary for any given seat will almost surely win the general election in the fall.  Still, we always exercise our right to vote and there were statewide candidates and issues.

The last cable we installed today was another 14-2+g NM to provide 120V to a junction box on the utility closet ceiling.  I mounted a round white plastic junction box approximately 8″ from the east utility closet wall in line with, and slightly in front of, the sub-panel.  I installed a plastic bare-bulb light fixture with a pull chain and 3-prong outlet to the junction box.

I did not tie any of the new circuits into the sub-panel today as we have one more circuit to pull and I want all of the cables at the panel before I cut the power and remove the cover.  We were done with electrical work for today so I turned my attention to drywall surface preparation while Linda retreated to her desk to work on tax returns.  I sanded the drywall compound as smooth as I could and wiped everything down to get rid of the dust.  I then primed all of the new and old drywall on the northeast garage wall along with the plywood platform and exposed 2×12 on the front of the base.

By the time I was done and cleaned up it was approaching 5 PM, we were both tired, and we needed to go to Lowe’s, so we decided to dine out.  We went to Lowe’s first and bought a weatherproof plastic disconnect box, a couple of watertight fittings, a 10′ length of 3/4″ plastic conduit, and a 50′ role of 12-2+g NM cable.  All of this will be used to run the new dedicated circuit for the new library air-conditioner.  We then drove to the Panera in Brighton and used one of our gift cards to have a light dinner.

We were back home a little after 7 PM.  The primer was dry so I decided to paint all of the surfaces I had primed before dinner.  While I painted Linda made a batch of her incredibly yummy granola.  We had a small glass of wine and played a few games on our iPads while the granola cooled and then turned in for the night.


2014/07/31 (W) Wrapping Up?

We were tired and went to bed early last night.  Naturally, that meant we were up earlier than usual this morning.  Linda made her fabulous vegan blueberry pancakes to get us fueled up for a long day of work.  The landscapers were also here reasonably early and had a very productive day.  More on that later.

Our first task this morning was installing a switch controlled dual LED floodlight fixture on the back of the garage above and to the left of the door (when viewed from the outside).  The location was determined by the construction of the rear wall of the garage.  I measured and re-measured the location of the cable hole to make sure the surface mounted junction box ended up in the center (vertically) of one of the siding boards.  I drilled a 1/2″ hole through the back (north) wall of the garage just to the right of the back door (when viewed from inside the garage) and just below the top plate.  I ran a 14-2+g (NM) cable (that I had previously prepped and left in the wall cavity) through the hole in the wall and then through the hole in the back of the junction box.  This was the part of the north wall where I had to remove concrete backer board, a burned 2×4, and singed insulation, so the studs and back side of the exterior plywood sheathing were exposed and accessible.

We moved around to the outside and I caulked the hole around the wire, put a generous band of while caulk around the hole on the back of the junction box, and a half circle of caulk around the top back edge of the box and mounted it to the outside of the house with the center knockout centered over the hole in the wall.  I installed the dual LED light fixture and put a bead of caulk around the top half of the junction box where it met the fixture.  (The heads of the cheap machine screws that now come with electrical fixtures and plates strip very easily making it difficult to get a tight fit.)  I caulked the wire hole from the inside and then dressed and secured the cable.  I turned the circuit breaker on, and checked for proper operation of the switch and light fixture.  It was all good.  I like it when that happens.

Our next task was to install three round blue plastic junction boxes for bare bulb light fixtures; two for the garage attic and one for the garage end of the library attic.  I was originally going to install a switch near the top of the fold-down ladder to control the lights and run power to it from a new ceiling light fixture in the utility closet, but we came up with a better solution.

There was a three-gang electrical box in the east wall of the garage just inside the door from the library.  It had two switches installed and the cover plate had openings for a duplex outlet in the third position, but no device installed there.  We thought this would be a better place for the switch—as there was already power to the box—if we could get a wire through the wall from the attic to the box.  The drywall is missing from the lower half of the wall so we had good access to the underside of the box.  (The drywall was removed by the previous owner to repair the frozen hot water baseboard heat pipes.)  I checked in the attic and it looked like we had a good shot at making this work.  The icing on the cake was that we could install a switch with a pilot light that is designed to fit in a duplex outlet cover plate.  Not only would it be convenient, it would provide a visible indication that the lights were on.

I did the attic work while Linda took care of the garage end of this task, passing me parts and tools as needed and helping feed NM cable. We ran 14-2+g (120V, 15A) wire from the attic through the east wall to the existing outlet box.  I pulled the cable over to the location by the library attic, mounted the box, cut the cable, unsheathed it, stripped the wires, ran it into the box, and secured it to the truss.  I repeated that process with the end of the free cable.  The plastic light fixtures I bought very conveniently feature pass-through wiring terminals so all I had to do was hook up the cables, fasten the fixture to the box, and screw in the 100 W rugged service bulb.

I repeated this process for the next box/fixture which I positioned just to the west side of garage ridge 1/4 of the way in from the front (south) wall.  Finally, I repeated most of this process for the third and final (for now) box/fixture which I positioned on the east side of the ridge 1/4 of the way in from the back (north) wall.  Somewhere in the middle of all that we stopped for lunch.

With the attic lights installed I needed to pull the wire that supplied power to the outlets in the west half of the garage out of the rear/north wall and up into the attic.  Easier said than done.  The cable was originally part of the circuit that powers the outlets in the northeast wall of the garage (and now powers the new floodlights on the back wall) but I disconnected it a week ago knowing that I wanted to feed it from a separate breaker.  The cable went through a hole in the top plate and I discovered that the bottom cord of the gable truss had been set partially covering this hole with the cable pinched under it.  I cut the cable from above and ran it into a plastic switch box.  Linda was then able to pull the tail end loose from underneath.  I will run a new cable from the sub-panel to the junction box after I get more pressing work done.

On that note I also realized today that I do not have to get the cables for the new circuits through the top plates above the sub-panel, which was going to be difficult-to-impossible.  The sub-panel is surface mounted and I already planned to box around it.  With the supply air duct coming out of the new HVAC unit and running straight out along the ceiling above the utility closet door I will have 16 inches of clear ceiling space.  The sub-panel is about four inches deep so I will have about three inches of ceiling above the panel and in front of the top plates where I can run new cable into the attic.  Brilliant!

Our last attic task for today was to disconnect two telephone wires in the wall cavity to the right of the sub-panel, pull them up into the attic, reroute them, and reconnect them.  One of them turned out to be the main phone/data line coming into the house from the AT&T box at the southwest corner of the garage.  There was a telephone wall outlet to the right of the old sub-panel that this line ran to before continuing on to the rest of the house.  The wires are very small gage, are unshielded, and the cable is draped through the attic over multiple 120 VAC cables.  I need to replace this with a single run of much better (shielded) cable when I have time.  Perhaps we will get less static on the phone and faster Internet data transfer rates.  (Nah, probably not.  It will still be an AT&T landline.)

While I started working on re-wiring the three-gang box in the east garage wall, Linda made a run to Lowe’s to get a 32′ roll of 16″ x 3.5″ (R-13) insulation and a switch with a pilot light.  I got the box rewired, we energized the circuit, and everything worked.  Yippee!

The landscapers today consisted of Steve (the owner), Spencer (his nephew), and Tommy.  Steve used the excavator to place four large boulders on the sides of the new front steps.  That was the last work to be done in front that required the excavator so he used it to back blade (level off) and compact (with the bucket) the pull-through driveway.  He was not able to return it to its existing condition but did the best he could with the equipment he has.

He took time out to use his chain saw to cut down a dead pine tree, cut it up into 4′ lengths, and carry the pieces back to his truck with the excavator.  He then used it to fill/grade a large low spot just southwest of the garage.  This was the route they used to get the excavator to the back yard.  It was also where all of the construction debris was piled until yesterday, and the excavator really tore the ground up in that area over the last four weeks.

Spencer and Tommy worked in the back hand-grading the slopes beyond the retaining walls and the area that was trenched for the drain tiles.  They worked in a layer of good topsoil, spread grass seed, and covered it with straw.

Steve plans to lay the brick pavers for the front sidewalk tomorrow and have the whole project wrapped up by the end of the day.  It looked like they were on track to accomplish that until Spencer informed us that there was apparently a leak in the drain tile somewhere in “the valley.”  Leak was an understatement; we had an area at least 8′ x 12′ that had turned into a pond.

It appeared that the drain line for the sump pump was somehow discharging its water at this point rather than it flowing all the way down to the drains at the back of the yard.   Spencer dug up some of the line coming down the slope and found several holes on the top side, but it did make sense that these were the source of the problem.  Our guess is that that line, which is not one continuous piece of drain tile, has become disconnected at the valley floor allowing all of the water to escape at that point, and/or crushed, causing the water to back up through a connector (which is only designed for water to flow one way).  Fortunately we kept the original PVC discharge extension pipe from the sump pump outlet so we temporarily disconnected the buried drain line and reconnected the extension pipe.

Whatever the cause of the leak, we are sure it will be found and fixed, we’re just not sure that will happen by the end of the day tomorrow.  I had thought about “testing” the system by using a garden hose to put a significant volume of water into each of the drain lines.  As of now, I will definitely be doing that.

Our final task was insulating a section of the rear/north wall.  We got three of the four plus cavities filled and ran out of steam.  Besides, it was dinner time.  Linda made one of her “go-to” dishes; angel hair pasta with onions, garlic, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and mixed baby greens lightly sautéed in olive oil.  This is a dish she can throw together from ingredients on hand without a recipe and it is always delicious.  We had a small glass of Leelanau Cellars Summer Sunset wine while she cooked and a small glass of Meiomi Pinot Noir with the dish.  No salad and no dessert; just a great pasta dish and nice wine.  I got cleaned up and we watched the first episode of season five of Doc Martin.  As we were drifting off to sleep we thought we heard the distant howl of a coyote.

2014/07/27 (N) Attic Access

We had a long day of work today.  We were up just after 7 AM, had a light breakfast of toast, fruit juice, and coffee, read a few blog posts, and got to work.  My first task was to apply a second, light coat of drywall compound to all of the divots in the wall.

Our main morning task was the installation of the fold-down ladder for the garage attic.  It was definitely a two-person job.  Per the instructions, we installed temporary installation boards to support the assembly while we secured it in place.  The installation required one of us to be in the attic and that job fell to me.  We put the assembly on top of a plastic shelving unit to get it close to the ceiling.  Once I was in the attic with all of the tools I would need, including a headlamp, Linda slid the shelving unit so the assembly was directly under the rough opening.  It was still too far from the ceiling for me to reach from above so she placed two footstools under it.  I was then able to reach one end from above and pull it up into the opening while she lifted the other end into position from below.

We read and followed the directions carefully so we already had the pull string and T-handle installed.  That allowed Linda to move the plastic shelves out of the way, carefully open the door from below, and position the step ladder.  I dropped her the cord for the worklight and then had enough light to work comfortably.  We temporarily secured the unit with deck screws.  They were cheap screws and the heads tended to strip easily, but we got them in far enough to hold the unit in place while I installed the lag screws.

The 10 lag screws got installed through pre-drilled holes, six of which went through metal hinge plates.  The instructions said to drill through these holes into the trusses and headers, but the folding ladder hardware made that difficult, and my drill buts were all a bit short to do much.  By cutting the zip ties and partially unfolding the ladder I was able to get all 10 lag screws most of the way in with my drill.  They all had to be shimmed.  The final tightening was done with a socket and ratchet.

We took a break for lunch around 1 PM and had leftover miso soup, tofu hot dogs, and fresh apples.  I made a quick run to Lowe’s to get some additional electrical parts I needed to install lights and a light switch in the garage attic.  While I was there I also bought a baby gate for our basement stairs.  Up until now we have blocked the landing for the basement stairs with a couple of chairs when grand-daughter Madeline has come to visit.  Now that she has successfully spent the night at our house we anticipate many more such visits and wanted a more permanent solution.

The device I bought had a gate with a latch.  It was designed to be installed under tension, but the directions said it had to be anchored to the walls if used at the top of a flight of stairs.  We were not thrilled about mounting it to the walls, but we did.  The installation took about an hour to complete.

Back in the garage I found an old, unopened drywall sanding/finishing sponge.  It had a 1/4″ thick coarse pad on one side for sanding.  The regular sponge side was used to wipe off the drywall and slightly wet the areas to be sanded.  I let the sanded areas dry, wiped everything down, and applied a coat of white exterior semi-gloss to the area of the two existing walls and the ceiling that will be inside the utility closet.

The probability of rain rose steadily though the day and finally resulted in thunderstorms around 4:30 PM.  Steve said yesterday he would be here today and I tried to get him to understand that based on the forecast he needed to be here early.  He wasn’t.  He showed up with the excavator about an hour after the rains, by which point the retaining wall work site had turned to mud.

He took the excavator back there anyway and we watched him work while we had dinner, which consisted of a very nice green salad with strawberries and the rest of the Pad Thai from last night.  (Even left over it was still exceptional.)  He was moving boulders and a lot of dirt trying to get rid of the small mountain range that blocked the flow of water away from our lower deck and was spreading the dirt around in an effort to create some of the final grading.  He brought a helper with him and they had long lengths of drain pipe that I think the intended to install.  But the skies darkened, the rain started, the wind came up, and the warning sirens came on.  He shut off the machine and the two of them made a run for their truck and left.  More rain is forecast for tonight with a chance of thunderstorms, possibly severe.  The probability for rain on Tuesday is currently 60%, and stays at 40% through Wednesday.  At this juncture it appears that they won’t get much work done here this week, and their machine may be stuck here until it dries out.

After dinner Linda and I finally built the base for the platform where the library HVAC unit will be installed.  It’s a 40″ deep x 46″ wide box with center cross bracing.  It’s made of pieces of 2 x 12 on edge.  We set it in the northeast corner of the garage, leveled it with shims, and secured it to the studs in the walls with 3.5″ nails.  I had to make all of the cuts with my Rockwell 8″ circular saw as the chop saw won’t cut something that wide.  I did not cut the plywood platform as I need to install it after the new (west) wall of the utility closet is in place so I can nail through the base into the wall studs.  I will, however, cut the plywood tomorrow before the wall is built as I will be able to set it on the base and trace around it on the underside to get a perfect fit.

My goal for tomorrow is to cut the platform, build the west wall, set it in place and anchor it, and install the platform.  Linda has a 12:30 PM dentist appointment, so I will have to do most of this work by myself.  By that point I will need to get cleaned up, shift gears, and get ready for a 4 PM FMCA Education Committee work session.